U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says he still has hopes the world trade talks will resume. Johanns says the trade negotiations , known as the Doha round, that were suspended in July provide a “very important opportunity.” Johanns says the U.S. believes the trade talks are the best opportunity to improve the world economy and the economies of developing countries. Johanns says the U.S. left a good offer on the table when the trade talks were suspended.
Johanns says, “We encourage countries around the world to review that offer carefully. It is an ambitious offer. We hope that negotiations can resume at some point, hopefully with the right spirit to come to a successful resolution. It is a great opportunity for the world and one that we want participate in and I think our offer has indicated that we’re willing to participate.”
Johanns was asked how U.S. food assistance will play into the negotiations. Johanns says the European Union countries want to see cash contributions instead of food contributions and Johanns says “We think that that is absolutely the wrong direction the wrong policy.” Johanns says food assistance is the “right thing to do, it saves people from starvation. And so, we’re going to do everything we can to keep food assistance in the Doha round.” Johanns says the trade talks need to be completed in the next six months or it may “take a few years to get back to it.”
Johanns also discussed the talks surrounding the new farm bill. He says research money is one of the topics that has come up in hearings on the farm bill. Johanns says the 60-percent of farmers who don’t receive subsidies have come to the Ag Department and say they don’t want subsidies, but do want funding for things like research. Johanns says it’s an issue he’ll look at when the farm bill is put together. Johanns says it’s on their radar screen, but the key challenge is finding the dollars to fit it into the farm bill.
Johanns says the high farm prices right now make it a good time to be discussing the future of farming. Johanns says, “Every farmer in America that has every talked to me about subsidies has said ‘I want to farm for the price.’ For the first time in a long time we have an opportunity of looking at a farm bill that is going to be based upon farming for the price…and it’s exciting to see. We still need a safety net, we believe in that, the President has supported that. But it’s exciting to see prices that can pay some the bills, if you will.”
Johanns is an Iowa native who returned to the state to speak today (Thursday) at the 20th annual World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines.